MANILA, Philippines – “Sheer indifference and chronic absenteeism.”
The chief peace negotiator of the Aquino administration said the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) did not survive the legislative gridlock because of lawmakers’ indifference, frequent absences, and repetitive questions during hearings.
“Let me state the fact: The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, in whatever shape or form, did not make it out of the 16th Congress,” said Miriam Coronel-Ferrer in a statement Wednesday, February 3.
The BBL is supposed to implement the key provisions of the peace agreement signed in 2014 by the Aquino government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and pave the way for the setting up of a regional government that will have access to more resources and enjoy more power than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The peace pact was the culmination of negotiations for 17 years, but the failure to pass the BBL now threatens not just Aquino’s legacy but also the temporary peace enjoyed in MILF-controlled areas in Mindanao.
“The sheer indifference and chronic absenteeism of majority of the legislators manifested in the lack of quorum almost on a daily basis in the House of Representatives, and the prolonged and repetitive interpellation of oppositors ate up the remaining sessions,” Ferrer said.
Ferrer added that in the Senate, a “belated change” was still entertained in the Senate despite the already stalled deliberations due to the “intermittent absence” of the proposed bill’s sponsor and the long line of interpellators.
‘Amounted to nothing’
On January 27, Lanao del Sur 2nd District Representative Pangalian Balindong “closed the book of hope” and said that Congress – which will be on break starting February 6 – “wasted time” by not passing the bill.
Ferrer noted that the “millions of pesos of taxpayers’ money” used to finance the proceedings in relation to the BBL “amounted to nothing.”
The House held 40 public hearings and 14 plenary deliberations on the proposed law. The Senate had 15 public hearings and 14 plenary interpellation sessions.
While people with high hopes for the law are “grieving, hurting, and once again dreading what tomorrow may bring,” Ferrer said the outcome of the 16th Congress will not stop the peace pocess. (READ: Bangsamoro Basic Law: Forgotten battle?)
“The collective inaction of our legislators to complete the deliberation on the BBL did not, and will not, stop the momentum of the Bangsamoro peace process,” she said. “At this low point, we call for sobriety and perseverance.”
Ready for next administration
The Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro (CAB), signed on March 27, 2014, is often referred to as the “end product” of the protracted negotiations between the government and the MILF. (READ: HIGHLIGHTS: Signing of the Bangsamoro)
Aquino has ordered special efforts to ensure that the agreement is implemented even after his term ends in June this year.
But various Muslim groups are also blaming Aquino for the failure of Congress to pass the law. (READ: Maranaos hit ‘traitor’ Aquino for failed BBL)
The members of the negotiating panel will now craft adjustments in the timeline and will do everything to properly implement the peace accord “so that the next administration will be in a good position to carry forward the full implementation of the agreement,” according to Ferrer.
“It took a long time to get to this set of practical steps,” Ferrer said. “The work many among us started and accomplished together through 17 years of hard negotiations and vigorous efforts to jumpstart and move the implementation of the road map cannot be taken away.” – Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler.com